Frans Steyn, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel all moved to Japan; Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Marcell Coetzee and JP Pietersen were all called up to the Springboks; Anton Bresler (Edinburgh), Charl McLeod (Grenoble) and Wiehahn Herbst (Ulster) also decided to play overseas; and Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willem Alberts were unable to play due to injury.
Nevertheless, the Sharks managed to finish third on the Currie Cup log before going down 50-20 to a rampant Lions team at Ellis Park last weekend. The likes of centre Andre Esterhuizen, scrumhalf Cameron Wright, prop Thomas du Toit, lock JC Astle and loose forwards Ettienne Oosthuizen, Khaya Majola and Tera Mtembu all made big strides during the campaign and experienced players like SP Marais, S’Bura Sithole, Lwazi Mvovo, Kyle Cooper, Lourens Adriaanse, Stephan Lewies, Marco Wentzel and Jacques Botes stepped up to the plate as well.
“I’m reasonably happy with the season, we had quite a few young guys in the team and we had to bounce back from a rough start. We were playing some nice rugby towards the end, winning in Pretoria and Cape Town is always going to take some doing, but unfortunately we didn’t play anywhere near to our potential in the semi-final. But credit to the Lions, who dominated us in all phases and, although there was a glimmer of hope in the second half, they took it to a different level at the end of the match,” Macleod-Henderson told The Citizen yesterday.
With director of rugby Jake White leaving the Sharks four weeks ago and no replacement yet named, Macleod-Henderson was unable to answer questions about his future but he did feel several players had shown in the Currie Cup that they can perform at SuperRugby level.
“The Currie Cup was a great opportunity for guys to show their quality – players like Tera Mtembu, who was outstanding as captain and eighthman, an older head like Marco Wentzel showed he still has the attitude and heart to succeed at that level, and Kyle Cooper, who didn’t get as much opportunity in SuperRugby as he would have liked.
“The Currie Cup players have shown what they can do and SuperRugby is a very tough competition, 16 matches and then the knockouts, a real marathon,” Macleod-Henderson said.
The coach said questions over the Sharks’ defence, the number of unforced errors they made, and the scrum, which was badly exposed by the Lions, will need to be answered before the next SuperRugby campaign.
An announcement is expected in the near future as to White’s successor, with Gary Gold, the former Springbok assistant coach and head coach of London Irish, Western Province, Newcastle, Bath and Kobelco Steelers, still the favourite to be appointed.